2017 ACC Environment Grant Supports Caribou Conservation with CPAWS


Editor's Note: Every year the ACC awards a number of financial grants to help our community members get outside, follow their dreams and protect the environment. The ACC’s Environment Grant provides support for the protection and preservation of mountain and climbing environments, including the preservation of alpine flora and fauna in their natural habitat. The ACC is proud to contribute $2,500 through the Environment Grant towards caribou conservation in Alberta's northern boreal forests. Since 2002 the ACC has contributed over $32,500 to environmental causes. The deadline for applications for the ACC Environment Grant is January 31 annually. 

Woodland caribou. Photo by Ted Simonett, Wildlands League.   

Woodland caribou. Photo by Ted Simonett, Wildlands League.


CPAWS Northern Alberta receives ACC Environment Grant

We are proud to support this year's winner of the ACC Environment Grant; the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS - Northern Alberta Chapter) for their ongoing caribou conservation work in northern Alberta. The goal of the project that has been awarded was to ensure scientifically sound and robust range plans are released by the Government of Alberta for Alberta's remaining caribou herds by engaging with government directly, working with other ENGOs and industry, and by educating the public. The ultimate goal of the project being good range plans, and active caribou conservation.

CPAWS is a nation-wide non-profit conservation organization, with regional chapters spread across Canada’s provinces and territories, whose objective is to gain greater protection for public lands and waters so that all Canadians may have a say in how shared landscape is managed.


Why caribou need our help

Caribou are an iconic Canadian species that have historically ranged across our whole country, touching almost every landscape that Canadians have ever thought to explore. Today caribou and and their important habitat are threatened, and we are losing both at alarming rates.

In the last 40 years or so, linear disturbances from oil and gas exploration and forestry operations have drastically increased access and ease of travel for predators, and greatly diminish the success of caribou’s predator avoidance strategy. Not only that, but new vegetation growth along roads, transmission lines, seismic lines, and cut blocks are attractive food sources for the likes of deer and moose, whose populations increase as a result, feeding the predator population even more and threatening caribou populations. Human resource extraction and in our boreal has created the perfect storm for caribou.

Alberta's boreal woodland caribou ranges.

Alberta's boreal woodland caribou ranges.

In Alberta, a long history of inaction on caribou conservation has led to ever-increasing risk of extirpation of caribou from the province, with rates of decline estimated at 50% every 8 years. Caribou need large amounts of undisturbed habitat in order to thrive and they have a wide range which can include important alpine habitat – an area that is also important to the ACC. Caribou are an umbrella species; thus, protecting and restoring 65% of their range serendipitously protects and restores the habitat of numerous other species, including those also at risk. Restoration of disturbance in caribou range returns habitat not only to caribou, but to many other boreal, terrestrial and aquatic species also living within that range.

Of Alberta's 12 boreal herds, only three have stable populations, one of which is only stable due to annual wolf culling program. The remaining nine herds are in decline and at risk of extirpation. The key factors believed to be contributing to their decline are habitat loss, as well as forest fragmentation by linear features created by industrial activity.

By protecting caribou, we are protecting our wilderness and the places where Albertans enjoy recreating.


Results of the project

After being listed as threatened in the Species at Risk Act in 2003, federal scientists found that the answer to the caribou decline was returning their habitat to an undisturbed state. The federal government, in the 2012 Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Boreal Population required the provinces to establish Range Plans for each Caribou herd that, among other things, would result in keeping 65% of each caribou herd’s range undisturbed. In Alberta creating these plans has been a huge challenge because of the pressure from industry, and the sheer quantity of disturbance in each caribou range.

To assist in the Government of Alberta’s caribou range planning, CPAWS Northern Alberta produced “Alberta’s Caribou: A Guide to Range Planning vol. 1- 3" — the first publicly available, science-based assessment that illustrates where conservation efforts, legislated protection, and immediate forest restoration need to occur in order to bring Alberta's caribou back from the brink.

Using CPAWS's Conservation Blueprint, the reports look at the best 65% of each range to restore and conserve for caribou and other biodiversity all while minimizing the costs to industry. These documents are available on the CPAWS website. These reports have been instrumental contributions to scientifically guided caribou conservation in Alberta. The guides have also initiated our involvement in planning projects for protected areas with three different forestry companies and have allowed for informed engagement with communities and counties in Alberta’s Northwest and with other Alberta conservation organizations.


How the ACC's support was put to good use

With the support of this grant from The Alpine Club of Canada, CPAWS was able to meet with Alberta government range planners and to disseminate the information in their caribou conservation guides over the past year.


Update on current state of caribou conservation project

Unfortunately, the Alberta Government missed the October 5, 2017 deadline to complete range plans. On October 31st the federal government released its report on progress on the implementation of Boreal Caribou recovery strategies. The report concludes that caribou numbers continue to decline, and habitat disturbances continue to climb within caribou ranges. In addition, it states that Alberta’s caribou range plans are now expected to be released in December 2017, two months late. CPAWS Northern Alberta expects all range plans to include a spatial plan for restoration and protection of habitat, including the creation of parks and protected areas in Alberta’s northwest. We look forward to reviewing the plans and providing feedback when they are released.

Read more about the Boreal Caribou herds' struggle for survival from CBC.

We encourage ACC members to stay involved and speak up for the protection of caribou.

Click below to send a letter asking for protected areas, industry restrictions, and habitat restoration:

Contributing to the protection and preservation of mountain and climbing environments

The ACC Environment Grant is issued annually from a permanent fund to be used to create a legacy of environmental improvement.

Wilderness is a diminishing and irreplaceable resource of great intrinsic value not only to those who recreate in its spaces, but to everyone on our planet. The focus of the Environment Grant is wilderness conservation rather than recreation enhancement. It is the ACC’s goal to be able to act quickly and decisively in order to protect our wild spaces from being lost.


The purpose of the Grant is to provide support that contributes to the protection and preservation of mountain and climbing environments, including the preservation of alpine flora and fauna in their natural habitat.

Funding priority will be given to projects related to the alpine and Arctic environments and climbing areas in Canada in recognition of our members' unique appreciation of these areas. As funds permit, projects in other mountainous and polar regions of the world may be supported.

Priority will be given to projects initiated by The Alpine Club of Canada and its members. However, outside agencies and individuals may be supported if their projects meet the mandate of the Fund.

Since 2002 the ACC has given out over $32,500 through the Environmental Grant. See the past grant recipients.

Information package (pdf)

Annual deadline for applications is January 31.

Donate to the ACC Environment Fund

Your donation helps us help those who are fighting to preserve Canadian alpine areas.